Youngstown State Week

 

PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO: Narduzzi YSU Preview

 

PAT NARDUZZI: Well, after a long, long camp, four-week camp, it’s finally game week. I don’t think there’s anybody more excited for game week to be here than our football team, our players especially. Got a great opener, obviously, one that’s familiar with me, being that it was my first game as a head coach here against these guys, and get to come back and do it again two years later. But I think we’re facing a totally different program. I think we’re a totally different team than we were two years ago as far as just who we are and what we are. But we face a team in Youngstown, 12-4 record a year ago, played in the National Championship game, got beat by JMU, very good team, had several guys drafted. I know two defensive ends for sure. But a very talented football team in Youngstown. They’re tough. They’re disciplined.

But very talented football team, and Bo Pelini and I go back a long way, Shane Montgomery, we go back a long way, the offensive coordinator, and Carl [Pelini], shoot, first time I met him, he was the head high school coach at Austintown-Fitch High School back at some point, and I’ve known him since then.

When you look at Youngstown, they’re a very disciplined football team. They’re tough. I would say very similar to what we are. They’re well-coached. Bo is a heck of a football coach. He’s assembled himself a great staff. Offensively Hunter Wells runs the show. He was a guy that got beat out early in the year. I think they were trying to go with the athletic quarterback, and Hunter Wells played against us two years ago in 2015, so he’s back as a starter. He was a guy that really came out and won all those playoff games for them. But really about quit, I believe, from the stories I hear. But hung on, and then was the guy to start for them. What a great story for him in adversity.

They have a couple young tailbacks that didn’t see a lot of action a year ago, the McCaster kid is the guy. Alessi is the backup, who I went to school with his dad back at Youngstown, also, so that’s another interesting tidbit, also. The receivers are very athletic. The Patterson kid, good football player, played against us two years ago, got great hands, makes plays. And then the Scott kid from Hubbard, his brother is LJ, plays at Michigan State, he was a Division I athlete coming out of high school, ended up going to Youngstown State for whatever reason, and hometown kid, and he’s talented. He could play anywhere in the country, I think.

Skill-wise, I think they’re talented across the board there, and they’ve got a very experienced quarterback that talking to Shane back when I was at Michigan State, Shane Montgomery, that is, thought he was a Ben Roethlisberger type quarterback, so I think he can make a lot of throws and he’s very smart and gets them in the right place.

Defensively, Armand Dellovade kind of runs their show at the middle linebacker spot. I think that name is familiar with everybody around here. He’s a football player. Wish he was in this program. Up front, they’ve got two D-tackles, Savon Smith and Mesier, and then they’ve got a safety that will rock you, a kid named Jalyn Powell, who played for me at Michigan State, as well. So they’ve got a couple transfers at defensive end from Florida, a receiver from Florida that we don’t know as much about, and maybe there’s some other guys that pop up on the roster. But great football team, and it’ll be a challenge. Our guys better come ready to play.

With that, I’ll open it up.

Q. You said you feel like you’re a totally different program than the one that faced them two years ago. In what ways?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, when you watch the tape, I think offensively we’re a little bit different than what they saw in the past. I think defensively, I’m watching going, golly, we’ve come a long way. When you look at just your first game and then you look at your last game, just go back to the bowl game last year, just what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, how fast you’re playing. We did not play very fast the last time we played. We didn’t get lined up as well as you’d like. It’s really two years past that date, 26 games later, and you kind of look and say, where are you, and it’s like, wow. There’s some players on that field I’d still take. I’d still take Lafayette Pitts, and big Tyrique [Jarrett] is out there playing against them, and there’s some other players that you’re going, wow, we don’t have a guy playing for us right now that’s like that guy, either, which is a good thing, too.

Q. What do you want to see out of your team in this game Saturday?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I want to see our guys come out with an attitude of this is a big game. I think it’s all how you put into it. It’s a big game because you only get 12 opportunities. So it’s the attitude they take into this game. I want to see them come out and play like they can. I don’t want them holding anything back for the next week or the next week after that or for the ACC. It’s a one-game season, and that’s all I’m focused on. I don’t care about anything else. I want to take that same attitude that our coaches will take into this game.

Q. This is the first of three games you’ll be without Jordan Whitehead, Quintin Wirginis and Alex Bookser. How did you kind of feel at the end of camp the replacements that were stepping in for those three were playing?
PAT NARDUZZI: I feel good. I feel a lot better than I would have felt if I found out or made that decision this week. I’d be like, oh, my gosh, can we get time. We’ve had time to prepare, and we’ll be fine.

Q. You have three guys on defense who are starters who are redshirt freshmen in Rashad, Keyshon and Bricen. Do you think those guys are just right there with the starters?
PAT NARDUZZI: The “or” questions. Give me your ors and I’ll tell you one by one.

Q. We’ve got Dewayne and Rashad?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, Rashad is playing really well, so we feel pretty good obviously about Dewayne Hendrix, and we feel really good about Rashad Weaver. He’s played good football, and we’re excited about him, so that’s a good ‘or.’

Q. And then Jazzee?
PAT NARDUZZI: Jazzee Stocker, that’s been a competition back and forth. If you saw our depth chart during the week, you’d be like, one day it’s him, one day it’s the other guy. Those guys to me are co-starters right now, okay. That’s how it is — just so we’re on the same page, those guys are co-starters, and I’ve been in that situation before, and you know what we’re going to find out, we’re going to find out who plays and does it in the game and who doesn’t. Probably after the game or at least Sunday, I’ll be able to tell you this guy is starting this week, based on what he does on September 2nd. But during the week it’s a little bit back and forth and maybe he didn’t look so good because it wasn’t live and he looked better because it was thud. I don’t know, but we’ll find out in the game.

I’ve been in games where we’ve had co-starters at that safety spot, and Kurtis Drummond I think is playing with the Texans right now. He was co-starter until he made that point in a game, and we found out against Indiana at Indiana that he was the starter. He started the rest of the year, and it was a done deal. Someone finally exposed the other guy, and there we go.

Q. Do you prefer having two guys like that or do you prefer having the one guy separating —
PAT NARDUZZI: If you can give me an All-American there at that position, that’s had 12-game, 15-game experience, I’d take him, too, with someone pushing him, but I do like the competition, and I feel like we’ve got two guys that can go in there, and I feel like it’ll be great for both of them.

Q. With Shawn Watson in his first game trying to figure out what his guys can do in a game situation, do you open it up or do you try to keep it vanilla because you don’t want to show too much because what you’ve got coming the next few weeks is considerable?
PAT NARDUZZI: Do you want me to tell Bo right now?

Q. Well, watching that other game, I was like —
PAT NARDUZZI: Boring, huh? We might be a little bit boring. I don’t know.

Q. How do you weigh it then because you’ve got a guy calling the game, he’s trying to figure out what works, and — how do you weigh that versus I don’t want to show the guys next week what we’re doing?
PAT NARDUZZI: Put it this way: There’s some things we’re going to hold, but we’re going out to win that football game. That’s what it comes down to.

Q. Is this a more difficult test than what you guys opened with last year?
PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, I would say on a piece of paper it is, but when you look at they’re (YSU) a top-10 team right now, I think they’re eighth in one poll, ninth in the other. They’ve got players. I would say yes, it is.

Villanova is not the type of team that’s bringing in a ton of transfers that you don’t know who they are and the history back when Jim Tressel was the head coach there, they brought a ton of transfers in and had some success with them. So they’re on that same track.

Q. How is Paris Ford progressing?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, not as well as you want to. I shouldn’t say that. He’s doing a great job on scout team. At the point when he came into camp, you know, like the work was in already, unfortunately, and that’s why I told you it would be a miracle probably for him — has he scrimmaged yet? No. I mean, it’s just too late. But you know what, he’s doing a great job on scout team. He’s having fun playing the game, and that’s what you notice about him. The other day he’s got a chance, we run a pass, whatever, doesn’t matter what the pass is, but he comes, whoop, and like pretends like he’s going to hit that guy. Obviously he’s on the scout team, he doesn’t want to hit the guy, but he’s having some fun and you’re like, whoo, that would have been a nice play. He probably would have broken the pass up, so he’s doing good on that. But he’s just sitting there reading a card like — so he doesn’t really know what he’s doing yet, and we’ve worked with him, but the only time — you can work with him and he can say, yeah, I know what to do, but until you see all the different things that can happen to you, you really don’t know. It’s just too hard.

Q. Is he eligible if you guys do want to put him in?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, as far as I know, yeah, is he eligible.

Q. Do you think that either Motley, Aston or Hamlin will play this year?
PAT NARDUZZI: Motley, yes.

Q. Do you think all three will play?
PAT NARDUZZI: Who did you say?

Q. Motley, Aston and Hamlin?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, no doubt about it.

Q. All three will play?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah. I told you I would tell you if someone wouldn’t a couple weeks ago, so you guys ask the same questions. But yeah, if somebody is out for the year, I’m going to let you know.

Q. How crucial is it just looking at the schedule, your first three — the second and third games are huge, but how crucial —
PAT NARDUZZI: This first one is huge. I ain’t worried about —

Q. Do they need to perform well on both sides of the ball leading into the next two games?
PAT NARDUZZI: You said how important is it to play good in this game because of what you have next? Is that what you’re asking?

Q. Just to build confidence.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we’re not going to play like you want to. We’re going to make our biggest improvement from game 1 to game 2. That’s just a natural. We can play really, really good and then fall flat on our face the next week. Sometimes it’s nice not to play great and then at least you go into that next week going, okay — so that confidence, we’ll build that. I just think when you look at the first game, there’s going to be those first game things that happen to you, and we’re going to see some of those ‘ors’, you either do it or not, and the next week there might not be any ‘ors.’ We’re going to find out what some of those guys do. It will not be a perfect game, I can tell you that.

Q. With all those young guys back there, how important is it to have Avonte and Dennis back there, guys who have been in your system now for three years and really know what to look for more than someone who’s —
PAT NARDUZZI: It helps. It helps obviously a lot, and Dane Jackson has come a long way. Damarri Mathis, guys, is a football player. He’s not in there because of a lack of talent. That guy is a football player. I can’t wait to watch him play. Now, he may be a freshman out there on September 2nd, but he hasn’t been a freshman in practice — not one day of practice has he acted like a freshman. I’ve been impressed with that guy from day one to be honest with you, and Pinnock, not as much, but Pinnock is really good, too. I’m excited for those guys and see what they can do.

Q. The numbers weren’t great for the secondary last year. What have you seen — you guys have said we’re going to stick with a plan. This is what we do. What have you seen during camp that sort of gives you confidence that these guys are starting to play?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, the first thing is there’s always going to be tweaking to it, so when I say not change what we’re going to do, we do what we do, but like we do every week, we’re going to tweak things to take care of things that had hurt us in the past. So you’re not changing the overall structure, but you’re changing little things to make things better, whether it be a technique, fundamental, an alignment. Those are all little things that will change weekly and change with the years, as well. But what you see out of our players in the secondary that you didn’t see a year ago is more recognition of splits, where guys are lined up, what they’re trying to do to you, the why’s, are we doing this, those things, and I’ve seen guys make plays. Now, they’ve made them in practice. We’ve got to make — like I said, we had some great catches on defense through camp, and we’ve got to see it on game day now.

Q. Are they doing less push-ups the last couple weeks than they were at the start of camp?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it’s been about the same. I think they’ve been pretty steady. I think they’ve been steady through camp. It wasn’t something where they started off bad where they were doing a lot of push ups, I didn’t count them, and then they’re doing less. It’s been a pretty consistent attitude back there, and it’s been pretty solid. We’ll find out on game day.

Q. As a coach do you like that? When you see guys take accountability like that —
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s their defense, so yeah. That’s what you want to see, that accountability out of them and not accepting that.

Q. Even with the secondary, you’ve got five corners posted on there. Is there still a chance we might see Therran Coleman get in the mix?
PAT NARDUZZI: There is. He just needs some game reps. Therran, those other guys have gotten more reps than he has. He’s been up and down and in and out, and we’ll see. But we expect big things out of him and Damar, and we’ll see as time goes. I expect him to play.

Q. From a physical standpoint, where is Dewayne Hendrix compared to where he was at this point last year?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, that’s a great question. It’s hard to tell. I want to get a whole game out of him. But you know, we don’t even have a game — a whole game to look at and say, okay, how is Dewayne now. I don’t even know how many plays he played against Villanova last year before he was out. Did he play a quarter? I don’t know if he played that long. But he didn’t play very long, so we don’t have a lot to compare it to. He’s looked good. He’s looked good in camp. He looked good in spring ball. He looked good last camp. It’ll be fun to watch him stay healthy, and then I’ll — but you really have nothing to gauge it from.

Q. Do you feel better about your depth on defense this year compared to last?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think it’s just like any year. Some spots you feel better than others. Right?

Q. Where do you feel good about your team?
PAT NARDUZZI: (Smiles.)

Q. It’s not an unfair question.
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s not, you’re right.

I feel pretty good about it everywhere, but I’m not going to sit here and give you the weaknesses or anybody else for that matter. I hope you respect that. But I really feel really, really, really good about our D-line and our depth there. I really do. I like the guys that we have. I mean, when you look at Patrick Jones and a guy that hasn’t played for us yet on the edge with Weaver, Jimmy Medure has showed that he can come in there and make some hay, as well. Probably forgetting some other guys. Let me look, at the defensive end spots. Rashad, Allen Edwards had a good camp, Folston. Those are a lot of guys that can play football on the edge, and then inside, Shane Roy has really had a good camp, and Keyshon, and I feel good there.

Q. I saw the clip on Twitter. What was it like giving out that scholarship to Jimmy Morrissey last week?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s always good. I mean, it didn’t go as planned. We wanted him to take a couple snaps first, but we messed that up. No, it was great. Jimmy has worked his tail off. It was something coming for a long time. You knew if you had one available that that was a guy that worked hard. He’s had the respect of our football team since he walked on that campus. He’s a natural leader. I mean, I will not be shocked if that guy is a captain some day. He’s just a redshirt freshman right now but it will not shock me if he’s a captain some day. He’s respected on and off the field. The kids really like him. For a young guy, man, the communication he’s got in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage is incredible. He does a great job.

Q. You have four tight ends. Where does Flanagan —
PAT NARDUZZI: Again, I could put them in order if you wanted me to. I guess we don’t have an order there because we’re going to play two of them a lot. Might even put three of them on the field. Flanagan has just been consistent and so has Chris Clark now. You’re going to see a lot of those guys on the field, and it’s — you put one tight end on there because you’re putting three wide outs, I think. Is that the case? Do we have three wide outs? Or two backs, or a fullback, whatever. We’ve probably got 12 guys on there instead of 11. We don’t just have two categories for two — maybe we should have a category with 13, 14 positions. But we see Chris Clark as a co-starter with Flanagan. In my opinion those guys are going to play a lot. That guy is going to get out and make a lot of plays this year for us, I think. Flanagan, though, if you had to put them in order, has been more consistent. He’s got the experience that Chris doesn’t have, and he probably pays attention to the details a little bit more than Chris. But when Chris Clark is the senior, he’s going to have the details, as well. I’d say the difference is the details, but when you look at 260 pounds that can run block, pass protect and also run down the field and stretch the field and catch the ball — I mean, they both have play making ability.

Q. Quadree Henderson taking another step as a receiver, what does that do for your offense having him in the slot?
PAT NARDUZZI: It gives us another guy to throw the ball to. I mean, it’s good, I guess, right?

Q. Has there been separation at running back or are those guys still sort of technically together?
PAT NARDUZZI: They’re a big pile in there. It’s another one of those things, it comes down to game day. Quadree has obviously had more reps lying back there, and we’ve seen him do it. Darrin Hall has gotten good. I could throw more ‘ors’ on there as you want it after that if you really wanted me to do that, but there’s some young guys that have really stepped up. I mean, AJ Davis has been impressive.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the long snap position.
PAT NARDUZZI: Good for you.

Q. With Cal Adomitis winning that, is that something that Coach Powell comes to you and says I think we’ve got to go with Cal or is that something you’re involved with because obviously it’s a very niche sort of —
PAT NARDUZZI: You guys were out there for practice most of the time during field goal and punts and all that and watching the snaps. No we make staff decisions, and it’s just consistency as far as where that snap is, especially for punts. We like it at the right thigh board in the punt protection. Those are all things that we all look at. It’s not hard to see, and consistency as far as where that snap goes is important. Cal has done a great job, and we’re going to find out on game day. I don’t know if there’s an ‘or’ there, but Nate Bossory has done a nice job, as well.

Q. Talking about the backs, Moss isn’t on there. Is he just a step behind or will he still get some runs?
PAT NARDUZZI: We’ll find out. It comes down to getting reps, and Moss isn’t on there, but AJ Davis isn’t on there, Sibley is not on there, probably somebody else we’re missing on there, as well, but it comes down to getting enough reps to be a guy that you’d want to put on that two deep and feel comfortable. Those are our first two guys going into the game Saturday. I can tell you that. If they’re not going on, then we’ll go to the third guy. But those are the first two guys that you’ll see in the game, unless something crazy happens this week.

Q. With you and Bo both being from Youngstown, a year and a half apart in age, did you know him growing up and as you got into the profession?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s been a ‘hate’ tie since the beginning, okay, and in a good way. You know, we don’t grow up in a world like we do now, so Youngstown, you’ve got Ursuline, Catholic school, versus Youngstown Mooney is really what it was, and we didn’t like them and they didn’t like us, and the hate was the rivalry, not even me and Bo. But without — you’ve got Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and then you have all these recruiting events, like in the Pittsburgh area, all these kids in this area all know each other, you know, and when you look back in 1984 and ’85 and ’83, there was no such thing. They may have lived two blocks away, but because they were from the other block, you didn’t talk to them. So you really didn’t know them. You knew them from a scouting report and who they were and what they played, but you really didn’t — there was no interaction like there is nowadays. And it’s kind of neat how these kids get along with each other now and they play each other on a Friday night and then they continue to talk — we didn’t do that back then. I mean, I know you’re too young to maybe figure it out. You’re like, what is he talking about. Us old people.

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